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Photograph by
Face the Music : Archer frontman Dylan Rosenberg, center, flanked by drummer Jimmy Giovacchini and bassist Isaiah Black

Big in Sweden

Santa Cruz Goldie winner Archer is back from touring and rockin' like it's 1984.

By Garrett Wheeler

Sporting leather pants, black boots and long blond hair, Dylan Rosenberg of Archer is the quintessential heavy metal frontman. Before any given show, there's an unmistakable gleam in his eye that warns audiences of what they are about to witness: the relentless force of the world's loudest, fastest and arguably most difficult genre of rock & roll. Classic metal--not to be confused with classic rock--exists as the apex of shreddage, the ultimate showcase for the electric guitar. No other genre demands such mastery of the instrument, from screaming harmonics to thundering power chords. And like the pioneers of the trade who were intent on creating the most technically complex sounds possible (see Yngwie Malmsteen), Dylan Rosenberg plays at a level most guitarists can only dream of. And he does it in style, banging his head in methodical twists and twirls, and crouching during solos, and approaching the microphone to deliver an impressive barrage of James Hetfield-like vocals.

At 22, Rosenberg is already a highly accomplished musician. He teaches at Musicscool Santa Cruz, and he's the winner of the 2008 Metro Santa Cruz Goldies Award for Best Local Musician. Archer, a trio made up of Rosenberg, bassist Isaiah Black and drummer Jimmy Giovacchini, won Best Local Band. Recently, Archer flew to Sweden to play a four-day festival larger in scale than any concert of its kind in the United States. Headliners at the Sweden Rock Festival included Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Coheed & Cambria, Blue Oyster Cult, Disturbed, Joe Satriani--the list goes on.

"It was the kind of show I would go to even if we weren't playing in it, just to see all those bands," says Rosenberg. "It was four days of rocking."

So how did a young up-and-coming trio from Santa Cruz land onstage alongside legendary rockers like Ace Frehley (the Kiss guitarist performed with his new band) and Warren DeMartini of Ratt?

"We got our first big gig in Europe at Germany's Bang Your Head!!! Festival through one of our sponsors, Epiphone guitars," Rosenberg says. "They threw our name in the hat, and we got lucky. I guess they listened to our stuff and liked what they heard. After that show, we tried to make as many contacts as possible, and that's kind of how we ended up meeting the promoters of the Sweden festival--we knew who to talk to."

Though Rosenberg points to sheer luck as reason for Archer's appearance in Sweden, there is another, more important factor he overlooks: his band freakin' rocks. Whether it's a Thursday night gig at a dive bar (they consider Henfling's Tavern their home turf) or rocking an amphitheater of thousands, Archer plays with the intent of absolute sonic annihilation.

"That's the idea," says Rosenberg. "No matter how many people are at the show, no matter how small the stage is, we're gonna give 110 percent. That's been our motto since we started, and I think it's served us well."

Archer's ferocity onstage is well known to those who have seen the band play--in fact, Rosenberg refers to Archer's intensity as "the band's calling card." But unlike the majority of small-town rockers who relish the chance to rock a live audience, Archer's brawny stage show actually translates in the recording studio.

The band's first release, Doom$day Profit$, is a no-frills compilation of early material, and though the album only recently became available for purchase, it was actually recorded and issued in 2006. After a split with the original drummer, Rosenberg says the group decided to remaster some tracks, redo the cover art and issue it again. The resulting 11-song LP toes the fine line between throwback and modern, seamlessly balancing the two opposing schools of hard rock. From the sweeping opening track, "Man Who Knows All," to the moderately paced ballad "Brewtality," Doom$day Profit$ presents listeners with a powerfully diverse and immaculate collection of heavy metal.

"We try not pigeonhole ourselves and say we need to sound like this or that," Rosenberg says. "We just try and write good music--that's really what it comes down to. I don't care what it is, as long as it rocks."

Discussing the current state of heavy metal, Rosenberg can't help letting his frustration at the genre's latest trends surface. "I'm not that into the new stuff. I just don't see modern metal sticking or being considered classic at any point down the road. Some of the European stuff is OK, but I try to tell myself that modern means new and fresh, rather than defining a certain sound. We want to play the good stuff, but at the same time, if you just sound like Sabbath or Maiden, nobody cares--you have to bring something new."

Listening to Doom$day Profit$, it's clear that Archer is indeed treading new ground, even if that means borrowing a few pages from the books of Van Halen, Metallica, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.

When asked about the possibility of a follow-up album, Rosenberg says the first order of business is "getting the first album rolling." Admittedly, Rosenberg is eager to record fresh material, but will put those plans on hold until the band feel like they've let Doom$day Profit$ achieve its potential. "Recording an album is fun," says Rosenberg, "but I have to believe it's worth it to do all the promoting and touring for the first one." Later this month, Archer will set out on a tour of the southeastern part of the country, hitting the stage in cities like Nashville, Louisville and Cincinnati.

But before embarking on the southeast tour, Archer will set its sights on its hometown, where it will storm the Catalyst Atrium on Aug. 23 with all the fire Archer fans have grown to expect. "We always say, if someone is willing to pay 10 bucks to go to our show, we're gonna deliver and make sure people walk away jacked," says Rosenberg. "Playing live is what this band is about."

Guess we'll be seeing those leather pants soon enough.

ARCHER's first hometown gig since its show in Sweden will be Saturday, Aug. 23, at 9pm at the Catalyst Atrium, 1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Cylinder and Steel Asylum open. Tickets are $10 at the door.

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